Monday, April 28, 2008

Wii Wheel review

Okay, so here's the review of the wheel itself. The Mario Kart Wii review will be up Wednesday or Friday, depending on when I think I'm ready to write it.



There's two things the Wii has a lot of: Shovelware and controller shells. You likely reacted to the Wii Wheel's announcement with "why?". After all, Ubisoft and many other companies have already released their wheels. What makes Nintendo's so special? Because a wheel's a wheel, right?

Well, that much is true. This is just yet another wheel, and it does nothing more than any of the competition's models. It's just a plastic shell for the Wiimote to fit into. But still, it is by Nintendo, so it deserves a look.

First of all, the wheel feels really good when you hold it. It's got a decent amount of weight to it, and it's very sturdy. Definitely feels worth a lot more than Nintendo's asking price of a mere $10.

Vroom!


The important thing, though, is if it adds to the experience. And I can say for sure that yes, it certainly does. Not only is this more comfortable than holding a Wiimote naked or jacketed, the wheel itself is just fun. It's just so entertaining to swing the wheel left and right like a madman. It's almost as fun as actually playing a game with it! But then again, I'm insane.

The wheel is pretty nice to look at, too. With a plain, white front bearing no blemish but a hole for the Wiimote, it's clean presentation fits in perfectly with all of Nintendo's other Wii accessories. And to make things a little interesting, Nintendo even added a blue circle on the back, with the word "Wii" embedded in the middle. Very clean and iPod-like, which is a great design choice.

A nice splash of blue mimics the Wii's disc slot light, and
also looks pretty damn cool.



Getting the Wiimote into the wheel really isn't any problem at all. Just take off any jacket or sleeve your Wiimote may be wearing (No matter how fashionable), and slip it in. Four rubber grips in each corner hold the Wiimote in firmly, and taking it out of the wheel is as easy as pushing through the hole in the back. Of course, the downside to the rubber grips is it stifles the rumble a teeny bit, but not by much. Otherwise, the wheel carries the rumble perfectly.

Every function of the Wiimote is available when in the wheel. Well, except for the expansion port, but that's to be expected. Players can even navigate the Wii menu with the Wiimote in the wheel thanks to an IR port on the left side of the wheel.

The B button extension on the back fits perfectly over the Wiimote's counterpart, with no gap in between. Even the wrist strap comes through the hole in the back, though I question how useful it is. I can't exactly picture people accidentally whipping their Wii Wheels at the TV without the wrist strap fastened. Oh well, better safe than sorry, I guess.

Worry not, players, as the Wii wheel has a hole for the
IR sensor! Navigate both the menus and the road!



I can only think of two problems with the Wii Wheel, and they're both quite minor. First of all, the Wii Wheel doesn't go very well with Excite Truck, as that game requires the Wiimote to be tilted, not turned. You can still play it with the wheel, but it feels a little odd.

Secondly, the Home, + and - buttons are a little hard to access. Every other button can be easily reached with the player's thumbs, but you're likely going to have to stretch to reach the central buttons. Once, I had to pause in a hurry, and accidentally tilted the wheel when reaching for the + button. Needless to say, my kart freaked out and hit a wall. Maybe I need a Finglonger.


Summary


Ease of Use: 10/10
All you gotta do is push it in, and to take it out, just push it from behind. It's so incredibly simple that I can't believe they actually included an instruction manual in the box.

Appearance: 10/10
The Wii Wheel looks nice and clean, just like any other Nintendo Wii product or accessory. The blue circle on the back looks great, too, and helps keep the wheel from looking too plain.

Performance: 9.5/10
It feels so much better than holding just a Wiimote, and even holding it is fun. However, it's not quite compatible with Excite Truck, and the inner buttons are a little hard to reach. No big deal, though.

Value: 10/10
Really, I can't believe Nintendo's selling this for only $10. I expected at least $15 or $20. Don't be fooled by the price, this is a quality accessory.

OVERALL: 9.9/10
The Wii Wheel is just a great little accessory for the Wii. It feels better than a Wiimote, its solidly built, it costs only $10, and it looks good, too. This is leaps and bounds above the Wii Zapper in almost every way, and it definitely enhances the gameplay. An excellent addition to anyone's game cabinet.

Discuss this review on the forums

The Duck Has Spoken.

Poll #37: "Which of the following Wii game ideas sounds best to you?" results, banner

"Luigi's Mansion 2" 13 votes (33%)
"Pikmin 3" 7 votes (17%)
"Kid Icarus" 9 votes (23%)
"A proper Pokémon RPG" 9 votes (23%)
"I don't know" 1 vote (2%)

Wow, I'm really surprised to see that Kid Icarus didn't come out on top. I didn't think so many people other than me wanted a Luigi's Mansion 2! Also, you can add one more vote to the winner, since my sister just told me she'd have voted for Luigi's Mansion 2 if she could. Every vote counts, whether you got there on time or not! (Don't tell that to the US government...)

As for this week's banner, it is, of course, Mario Kart Wii. Yeah, so it's the third Mario Kart Wii banner I've done this year. But is that so wrong? The Mario Kart series consists of some of the only games that are played throughout a whole generation, so the latest installment deserves this attention. I've been playing Mario Kart DS since 2005, and I honestly think I'll be playing Mario Kart Wii for a comparable amount of time.



And that leaves this week's poll: "Would you buy a new DS model if it were released this year?" Rumours have been running rampant about another DS redesign coming out this year, so I'm wondering just how many of you would plunk down the cash for it, hypothetically. Personally, I'd bite, but mostly because of the sorry shape my DS Lite is currently in. Of course, if the redesign sucks for some reason, I'll just buy another Lite on the cheap. But I doubt that'll happen.

Tonight's article should be up soon!

The Duck Has Spoken.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Destroy All Humans! Big Willy Unleashed review

Yep, this came in the mail on Tuesday. Here goes review number 2 for this week! And then we have Mario Kart Wii next week... I hope this makes up for the general absence of reviews as of late!


Developer: Locomotive Games
Publisher: THQ
Release Date: February 25th, 2008
ESRB Rating: T for Teen
ESRB Notes: Alcohol and Tobacco Reference, Crude Humour, Mild Language, Sexual Themes, Violence
Also Available On: Playstation Portable


The Destroy All Humans! franchise began in 2005 with the release of the game of the same name. With snappy writing, 1950s pop-culture references and a refreshing new take on aliens, Destroy All Humans! was a moderate hit. Three years have passed since the original game came out. Has Destroy All Humans! stayed fresh, or is Big Willy Unleashed running on empty?

If you consider the storyline to be an indicator of freshness, Big Willy Unleashed is like a spring chicken. The story takes place at the peak of disco, the 1970s. Cryptosporidium-137 (He prefers to be called Crypto), a native of the planet Gorta, is relaxing in a small-town back alley, watching TV. The digital brain of his invasion adviser, Orthopox-13 (Pox for short), drops in via a portable holographic emitter (This serves as his replacement body after his last one was destroyed). He tells Crypto that he has a mission for him, and outlines that he has recently started his own fast-food chain, Big Willy's. As it turns out, the main ingredient in the restaurant's famous hot dog (Also called a Big Willy. Innuendo abounds!) is the ground-up meat of Crypto's victims, more specifically, humans. Some people have caught on to this dirty secret, and they're determined to have Big Willy's shut down at all costs. So it's up to Crypto to make sure that word doesn't get out, eliminating everything that gets in his way. After all, Big Willy's does need meat for its hot dogs!

Destroy All Humans! Big Willy Unleashed is undoubtedly one of the funniest games I have played in a very long time. First of all, there's Pox's common (And oblivious) suggestive references to the Big Willy name. It's a major source of the humour in the first little part of the game, but Crypto puts an end to it after it gets on his nerves. There's also many cultural references, but it's usually Crypto's reactions that are the funny part. For example, Pox is incapacitated at one point, only able to communicate with Crypto via a prerecorded message, heavily reminiscent of Princess Leia's famous message to Obi-Wan Kenobi. At the end of the transmission, the following happens:

Pox's recording: "Help me, Stupey 137 Crypto-bi, you're my only hope!"
Crypto: "Oh, come on, Pox. Crypto-bi? That's a bit of a stretch"

There was another scene early on in the game which made me laugh just because of how absurdly unexpected it was. Pox orders Crypto to burn down a local disco hall, followed by the line "Crypto, light me up a disco inferno!", to which Crypto replies "Burn, baby, burn!". To top it all off, Disco Inferno begins to play, and continues until the end of the mission. So unexpected and out-there that I just couldn't help but laugh at the absurdity of it all. If for nothing else, Destroy All Humans! Big Willy Unleashed has a killer storyline just for the comedic value.

Playing Big Willy Unleashed is an incredibly varied experience, with a few hiccups scattered about. Big Willy Unleashed is a mission-based sandbox game, with open-world exploration available from the start. Players can travel around on foot as Crypto, using his jetpack for high jumps and hovering. Crypto has a plethora of weapons at his disposal, ranging from the Zap O Matic to a Disintegrator Ray and an alien's best friend, the Anal Probe. He also has many Psychokinetic (Or PK) abilities, such as Psychokinesis (Allows Crypto to pick up objects and people and throw them around), Body-Snatching (Crypto takes over the body of a human to blend in), and Transmogrification (Turn objects into ammunition).

The one problem I can find with any of Crypto's abilities is how Hypnosis, Transmogrification and Body Snatching are carried out. Once the player has chosen to use one of these abilities, several targets appear on screen (More if the object/human is bigger/stronger). This all seems a little arbitrary, and it's almost like an excuse to use the Wii remote's pointer. But, it doesn't last too long, so it's not too bad.

Crypto can also use his flying saucer for air-based combat. The saucer also has several weapons, such as a Death Ray, the Quantum Destructor and, of course, an abducting ray. The other vehicle Crypto has access to is the big ol' robot on the cover, the Big Willy mech. Big Willy has many ways of wreaking havoc, such as Heat Beams, the Regurgitron (An acid that the robot "vomits" onto his enemies) and the Wind Breaker (Artificial flatulence with a shockwave-like effect). Willy can also pick up and throw objects, jump, and eat human brains for energy.

The Quantum Deconstructor is a force to be reckoned with.

While all this is fun, there are some problems. First of all, the flying saucer is a little hard to control when changing altitude. In order to go up, the player must point the Wii remote upwards, and point it down to go down. However, the rate at which the altitude controls actually work is somewhat low. Also, the saucer can only go at a certain height relative to the ground below it. It generally cannot go lower than about 20 feet, and it can't go higher than a few hundred feet. But if Crypto flies over a mountain, the saucer can suddenly fly higher above sea level. What is this, some sort of hovercraft?

The Big Willy mech also has it's fair share of problems. First of all, the controls for using a primary weapon and picking up an object often get mixed up. To pick something up, the player presses A and B. But to use a weapon (Such as the Wind Breaker), the player needs to press B. If you go to grab something an accidentally hit B before A, you'll use your weapon instead. A doesn't do anything unless in conjunction with B, so why can't that be the grab button? And then players could even hold things and use weapons, adding to the possibilities for fighting.

Another problem arises when throwing things. The actual act of throwing is easy and responsive enough, but targeting is somewhat fickle. The game will automatically aim at something on the screen, but the player has little control over what is targeted. So if you want to toss a car at another car down the street, too bad. The game will usually target whatever's closest to you, making you end up throwing a Buick at a Stop sign. Why is the Stop sign even targetable, anyway? Are they known to be hostile when provoked?

When operating the Big Willy mech, it's energy constantly drains. If it fully runs out, Crypto will be automatically ejected, and he'll have to recharge the robot with his Zap O Matic, leaving him vulnerable. Players can prevent this by "popping" the brains of people on the street, and picking people up can sometimes be a problem. If your desired meal is standing by a car or something, Willy will often pick up the object instead of grabbing the life-giving human. I once had to pick up a car, a box and a street sign before I could grab the person standing in the middle of it all. Being able to somehow cycle through targets would solve both this and the throwing problem.

There's a slight camera issue with Big Willy. In order to reorient the camera, players have to tilt the Wii remote left and right, as opposed to simply pointing at the edges of the screen when playing as Crypto. This makes a bit of sense when flying the saucer, but when changing the angle as Big Willy, it just feels unnatural and difficult. Also, I sometimes accidentally try tilting the Wii remote to aim the camera when playing as Crypto out of habit. Would making pointing the standard camera control be so hard?

Despite it's shortcomings, it's a lot more fun to play as Willy than in the flying saucer. In fact, I never use the saucer unless a mission calls for it. The reliable stand-by seems almost useless by comparison. Meh, maybe it's just me.

Moving about the map can be a little glitchy in some places. For example, say you're trying to jump a 5 foot wall. In real life, if you jumped at it with a height of 4 and a half feet, you'd hit it and fall off. But in Big Willy Unleashed, you'd simply slide upwards until you stand on top of the wall, in a glitch I call "skipping". Skipping can also be a problem if you're playing as Big Willy and walking on a narrow bridge with walls on either side. The bridge's walls are too close together for Willy's feet to fit between, so he tends to stand on top of the walls, constantly skipping until the game finds a way to make him stand. This can really slow you down and is quite annoying, although it does supply some unintended humour when Willy's flipping out.

Speaking of the environment, the areas are fairly cramped, especially when considering how big Willy is. When put to scale, a play area is to Big Willy as a gymnasium is to a regular-sized person. It's big, but still restricting. With some streaming technology and a few more months of work, I think all four areas could have been substantially bigger. Yes, that's right, there's only four areas, as opposed to the original game's six. What? And don't get me started on the load times when switching from site to site.

When playing through any one of the game's missions, Crypto can generally die as many times as he wants. A new clone simply takes his place, with no limits or "lives". Crypto can of course be killed by enemy fire and short-range attacks, as well as one slightly less conventional manner: Water. Crypto cannot touch water at all. Even a wading pool can prove fatal. It's even deadly when in the Big Willy mech or body-snatching. I think it's a little cheap, and in some cases it seems to be a substitute for the infamous "invisible wall". The fact that even the shallowest of water can kill Crypto is incredibly annoying, considering one point of the game requires players to jump over a series of narrow rivers to get to the objective. All it takes is one ill-timed jump, and you're a goner. Couldn't the water have merely whittled down Crypto's health instead? It's a real pain when a simple misstep causes you to lose your disguise.

So, if dying doesn't constitute a failed mission, what does? Usually, there is a crucial object in the mission. Sometimes you have to defend a building, in others you have to transport items safely. If you mess up and accidentally end up having the object destroyed or lost, it's game over. If this happens, you have to restart the whole mission from the beginning, no checkpoints. This really sucks when it comes to the mission I'm currently stuck on. Usually I can beat a mission the first try around, sometimes it takes me a couple tries. But this one level is ridiculous. I'm tasked with defending a transmission tower while a message is being broadcast, and dozens of soldiers are closing in from every angle. Not only do I have to take care of the ones shooting at me, as there's some soldiers who sneak by and plant bombs by the building. So I have to kill the soldiers, protect the building and hold out for several minutes. And after several tries, I haven't won. And each time I have to restart right from the beginning of the mission, which has at least five minutes of play before the defense part. So I've played the same easy part of this mission over and over because the last part is virtually unbeatable. This game got way too difficult in no time flat.

But, the game is still quite fun. I just don't know if I'll ever be able to finish it. Oh well, I can always just destroy stuff in the Big Willy mech...

Hot damn do I ever love destroying things...
And Big Willy Unleashed has plenty of it.



It's a good thing Big Willy Unleashed is a pretty fun game, because it's sure not going to win any beauty contests. While everything runs extremely smoothly, it's likely because of how lightly detailed things seem to be. The textures are almost all blurry, and in some cases, the windows aren't even attached to the buildings! I've seen windows floating about a half foot away from the wall, held up by some unknown force. And some details get blurry at a very close distance. Close up the lines on the parking lot may look fairly clear, but walk back slowly and watch it become very, very blurry. The draw distance is atrocious. I've even see people and vehicles appear less than 20 feet in front of me! And speaking of the people, there are very few variations on what they look like. Generally, there's about two or three different models each for males and females, with a load of generic soldiers. Far too often have I seen about three of the same model standing right next to each other. Oh, and everyone's an adult. Not a single kid in the whole darn game.

Now, this game is entirely voiced over. Every word is spoken, and not a single text box shows up instead. This is great, but in this game, there's no such thing as lip syncing. Instead, the camera just angles so you can't see the characters face, and they make gestures to show that it's them talking. Sorry, but that's pretty crappy right there. They could at least make a two-dimensional, pasted-on mouth that opened and closed like in Animal Crossing.

So then, speaking of voice acting, it's all amazing. Every actor is pretty good at, well, ACTING, and the dialog is all so very well written. Fans of Invader Zim may even notice that Orthopox's voice actor is the same person who gave speech to Zim. That's a pretty interesting choice, and it fits very well.

As for the musical score, everything is very 1970s disco, a perfect fit for the game's time period. As I said earlier, Disco Inferno even has a minor presence towards the beginning of the game. A game with Disco Inferno in it can't be all bad!

In contrast to what I said above, their is at least one small issue with the audio. In particular, the sound effects made by cars when they turn. No matter how sharp or wide the turn radius, the tires make a screeching noise as if they're taking a 90 degree angle at 60 miles an hour. Why can't they just turn silently? And this isn't the only sound effect that's of low quality. Several sound bytes that I've heard a bajillion times in other games and TV shows pop up in this game, from the noise made when the saucer cloaks to when Big Willy fires his death ray. I'm all for saving the Earth, but recycling sound bites doesn't quite count.

One minor note: There is a multiplayer feature to this game, but I have not had the chance to check it out due to owning only one Nunchuk. When I do get my hands on a second Nunchuk, I will check out the multiplayer and submit a review of that mode as a mini-article. Sorry for the inconvenience.

Big Willy Unleashed doesn't seem like a particularly long game. I've played it a few hours every day since I got it on Tuesday, and I'm already almost done the second last invasion site. A series of unlockables are good for a bit of fun, but I don't see them doing too much to help the replayability factor.

SUMMARY


Storyline: 8.5/10
The writing is some of the funniest I've seen in a very long time, with clever jokes and snappy remarks around every corner. However, the story seems to be entirely disposable in the overall Destroy All Humans! continuity.

Gameplay: 7.0/10
While there is a lot of fun to be had in Big Willy Unleashed, much of it is hampered by glitchy collision detection and brutally hard missions.

Graphics: 4.5/10
I'm sorry to say, but this has to be the worst-looking Wii game I have ever played. Textures are blurry, the draw distance is far too close, and there are far too few character models for the humans.

Audio: 8.0/10
As I said in "Storyline", the writing in this game is incredibly funny, and the excellent voice talent makes it all even funnier. The music is also very suited to the game's 1970s America setting. However, some sound effects are a little lacking, detracting from the overall experience.

Longevity: 7.0/10
I'm almost certain that the storyline is just about over at the point I'm at, and I've only played it for a couple hours each day. The unlockables are fun, but probably not enough to get me to come back after beating the game.

OVERALL: 7.25/10
Destroy All Humans! Big Willy Unleashed is a pretty fun game, but it certainly has it's fair share of flaws. The graphics are pretty bad, and the collision detection is pretty poor on the most part. Also, it gets incredibly hard very fast. But still, it's good for a whole bucket of laughs, and it's a pretty fun distraction. I can't really recommend a purchase, but anyone who likes to laugh should at least rent it.

Discuss this review on the forums!

The Duck Has Spoken.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Mini-Article: Touch screens, motion controls... What's next?

In 2004, Nintendo hit us with one of the biggest developments in gaming in years: Touchscreens. Two years later, we're really playing with power, using motion controls to do our bidding. But what control interface could possibly one-up this?

I've seen some ideas floating about, one of which is incredibly absurd, yet strangely interesting. This concept, called the Virtus Sphere, has the player running around in a giant hamster ball. No, really. A person dons a virtual reality visor, grabs a light gun, and hops in. Interesting, but incredibly impractical. I wouldn't want to have been a hamster-er, guinea pig on this one.

Hamster hamster hamster hamster

And then we have the prospect of taking the Wii remote and cutting out the middleman. In other words, no remote, and controlling the game with our hands. It sure sounds like a good idea. Just wave your hand to manipulate your environment. Close your fingers to grab something. Ball up your hand into a fist and make a punching motion to sock it to 'em. It all sounds good in theory, but then again, so did the Powerglove.

"I love the Powerglove. It's so bad." (Perhaps "bad" wasn't the best word to use...)


Of course, after that, we have the science fiction idea of controlling a game with one's mind. A little cybernetic implant here, some cranial modification there, and you instantly become the ultimate game controller. To take it a step further, the game could be displayed on a virtual reality visor, or even beamed directly to the player's optic nerve. Of course, this, like the above idea, has a couple of kinks in it. Firstly, if something happens while the player is in-game, they may not be able to react properly. House on fire? Sorry, can't help. Too busy grinding my level 70 Tauren.

The only step from here is a full-blown, straight-from-Star-Trek holodeck. In a holodeck such as the one from The Next Generation, the player actually enters the game, becoming part of a huge, fully-interactive holographic environment. Every projection reacts to the player as if it were a solid object, allowing for otherwise unmatched possibilities. The player could actually climb virtual stairs as if they were real, touch objects as if they were actually part of their world, and walk through a park as if it were a real place, feeling the virtual wind on their face. This is the ultimate level of player integration, but, again, it has it's downsides. If the power were to go out when the player is standing at a high elevation, they would plummet down and hit the real, solid floor. Not exactly safe. And then there's the matter of the program going haywire and hurting the user... It wouldn't be a pretty sight. And how impractical is devoting an entire room to a holodeck? Yipes.

Imagine playing Metroid Prime 3 in one of these babies.


As for now, I think we'll have to make do with what we have. Sure, the hamster ball and Powerglove-like interface have their perks, but the downsides overshadow them. Cybernetic implants and Holodecks are even more flawed, and even dangerous. So unless they think of some way to make this all safe and practical, we won't be seeing much of a departure from the Wii remote for quite some time to come.

Feel free to discuss this in the comment section, or in this forum thread.

The Duck Has Spoken.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Professor Layton and the Curious Village review

I went far too long without buying a new game, and just about as long without reviewing one. Luckily, I picked this up on Friday, killing two birds with one stone.


Developer: Level-5
Publisher: Nintendo
Release Date: February 10th, 2008
ESRB Rating: E for Everyone
ESRB Notes: Mild Violence


It's not every day that a new franchise emerges with brand-new content and characters, and it's even more rare that the release is worth a player's time. But this is not the case with Professor Layton and the Curious Village, the first entry in a new series by Level-5 (Developer of Dragon Quest VIII). Until recently a developer mainly for Sony platforms, Level-5 has made the jump to the Nintendo DS with the Professor Layton trilogy. And personally, I couldn't be happier.

The game begins with a beautifully animated cinematic showing Layton driving his car through the English countryside. He and his apprentice, Luke, are headed off to the village of St. Mystere. Layton has a hunch that an apparent inheritance dispute is really something far more important, and his intuition doesn't often steer him wrong.

Just what is this "Golden Apple" mentioned in the will?

Upon arrival at St. Mystere, Layton's hunch proves right, as a villager is murdered soon after. Furthermore, bizarre sounds are coming from the large (And somewhat bizarre looking) tower at the center of the town. St. Mystere is no ordinary village in the English countryside, that's for sure. As the story unfolds, Layton uncovers many a secret, and there are more than enough plot twists to satisfy even the most rabid M. Night Shyamalan fan, although most of these twists make sense and fit the story perfectly. Every twist serves a purpose other than to catch the player off guard. An excellently woven tale, with expertly written dialog tying it all together.

The villagers in town have a strange fascination with puzzles. To many of St. Mystere's inhabitants, a person isn't worth talking to if they can't solve a riddle. Puzzle solutions are almost like currency in this village, with almost every encounter with a villager leading to some strange and abstract conundrum which Layton must figure out. If players are having a particularly hard time solving a puzzle, they can use a Hint Coin in order to gain a small advantage. Each puzzle has three hints, each of which cost exactly one coin. The first hint is usually a little obvious, with the consecutive two being more and more helpful to the player. Don't go thinking you can buy the more useful hints first, though. Each must be purchased in order. We can't go making things too easy, now, can we?

These Hint Coins are hidden throughout the village of St. Mystere. When players see something suspicious, they can tap it with their stylus to check for Hint Coins, and sometimes even secret puzzles. But beware, as there are nowhere near enough Hint Coins to buy every hint for every puzzle. Players would be wise to save their coins for the real head-scratchers.

Successfully solving a puzzle earns the player Picarats, credits which don't have much use within the story mode, but can unlock bonus features accessible from the "Bonus" button at the main screen. Less Picarats are earned if the player answers a puzzle improperly, making it so players can't just input every possible answer until they get it right. Of course, they could just cheat and turn the DS off every time they get a wrong answer, but that really takes away from the satisfaction of solving a puzzle. Some puzzles can be solved with simple trial and error, and even luck on occasion. But would you really risk your prize on a hunch? It's really not worth answering unless the player is 100% sure that their answer is correct. It's either that, or lose precious Picarats.

Answer this puzzle carefully, or the 10 Picarat prize will dwindle...

If you're really stuck on a puzzle and you're all out of Hint Coins, no need to worry. Almost none of the puzzles in the game are absolutely mandatory, but players will sometimes need to have solved a certain amount in order to advance. For example, at one point it is required that you solve 75 puzzles before you can advance. If you can figure out the majority of them, you should be fine. Just make sure you solve all the easier ones!

However, some puzzles must be solved in order to continue the story. Sometimes you'll need to figure out an abstract riddle in order to open a door, obtain an item, or convince a villager to spill the beans on something. Since there's no way around these ones, it's a good idea to save up your hint coins for just such an occasion.

Sometimes, a puzzle may become unavailable due to the player having missed his or her opportunity. Fear not, for there is a way to play these puzzles later on. There is a special house in town where all missed puzzles go. If you find that you've let one get past you, you can always come to this little building and solve them on your own time. Nobody gets left behind!

The variety of these puzzles is amazing. One minute you may be sliding blocks to get a ball to a certain point, the next you could be using logic and abstract thinking to decode some sort of secret message. Of course, with so many puzzles, you're sure to come across one you've seen elsewhere (In books, on the internet, etc.). Think of these puzzles as freebies. It may feel like cheating to get one right off the bat, but believe me, you'll be thankful that you knew the answer. Players may need all the help they can get to succeed in this game.

Some puzzles may be as easy as just looking for the
matching shape, while others can get quite complex.


Of course, there is more to this game besides puzzles. It's just that puzzles make up a very large part of it! Players will also walk around town on foot, moving from screen to screen in search of clues, Hint Coins and, yes, puzzles. You may be thinking that all these puzzles seem unnatural and out of place, but believe me, it all makes sense in the end.

If there's one flaw with Professor Layton's gameplay, it's that the game is fairly linear. You're almost always told exactly what to do, and the top screen even reminds you of your next objective. You will occasionally have to do some hunting to figure out your next move, but for the most part, you're just going from point-to-point.

Players have a lot more on their plate than working their way through the villagers' puzzles. There are several integrated mini-objectives mixed in, such as collecting shredded pieces of a painting, building a strange gizmo, and furnishing Layton and Luke's rooms at the inn. Although I've only finished but one of these three side quests, I'm fairly sure that they all have some sort of reward at the end.

If there's one thing I absolutely love about this game, it's the amazingly well animated cinematics. I can't even describe how brilliant these cartoony segments are. So here, take a gander at the game's first English trailer:



As you can see, the art style is reminiscent of classic French cartoons such as Tin Tin. It's very smooth, and the picture quality on the Nintendo DS screen is far superior to that of a Youtube video. There's about ten solid minutes of animation in the game, all of it drawn beautifully. The amount of cinematics thins out a bit towards the middle of the game, but there's more than enough animated goodness at the end to make up for it. I find myself going back to watch some of my favourite scenes over and over again (The Ferris Wheel video being the most viewed, no doubt).

The art style of the cinematics carries over to the rest of the game, with each character bathed in an air of liveliness. The animations are smooth on the most part, with a few clunky bits here and there. Hey, nothing's perfect, but Layton sure does it's best.

Also, as you heard in the above trailer, the game's cinematics are all fully voiced, with some fairly talented actors giving more life to the already lifelike characters. The British accent on a few of the characters is a teeny bit shoddy, but thankfully Luke and Layton are quite believable. And the voices sync up with the animation fairly well, especially considering this was originally in Japanese.

The soundtrack is all very calming and suits the situations well. It has a very old English feel to it, and it meshes with the game's setting perfectly. Overall, the sound is quite well done.

The main storyline in Professor Layton took me about 13 hours to finish, so I guess the average play time will be somewhere between 10 and 15 hours. This is fairly impressive for a DS game, especially one with so many cinematics and lushly animated scenery.

However, although I have finished the story, I am not done the game. As I said above, I still have to complete two of the sidequests, and there are even more puzzles available via the Bonus button on the main screen. Furthermore, players can unlock new puzzles by connecting to the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection (The game says that you're downloading them, but really you're just getting a patch to unlock them). And finally, players may find themselves digging this one up when the next Layton game comes out. Using a secret code hidden in Professor Layton and the Devil's Box, players can access a feature called "The Secret Door". I've found out what this is by doing a bit of research, but I won't spoil it for you. Let's just say that those who appreciated the game's art style will like it.

SUMMARY


Storyline: 9.5/10
Plenty of twists keep the players guessing all throughout the adventure. The plot is very well written, and the character dialog is quite believable. Overall, a great story that every gamer needs to experience.

Gameplay: 9.1/10
The amount of variety in the puzzles is staggering, and even the most clever gamer is sure to get stuck on more than one occasion. However, the rest of the game is fairly linear, and walking back and forth can become somewhat tiring.

Graphics: 9.0/10
I am absolutely in love with this game's art style. Everything all feels so alive, and the cinematics are just breathtaking in their quality. The talking heads during conversations are a little disappointing compared to the lush animated sequences, but it's to be expected on a DS game.

Audio: 8.9/10
The fully-voiced characters add even more to the brilliance of the cinematics, even if the accents are a little shoddy at times. The music is nice and suiting, although not exactly memorable.

Longevity: 9.3/10
13 hours is quite respectable for a DS game, and Wi-Fi Connection puzzles add to it even more. Plus, players can unlock even more riddles on the bonus menu, adding unknown levels of replayability.

OVERALL: 9.4/10
Professor Layton and the Curious Village is a triumph of game development. The puzzles are challenging almost to the point of frustration, but the storyline kept me coming back for more. Animated cinematics are just the icing on this delicious cake of a game. Definitely a must-buy for puzzle lovers and DS owners looking for something refreshingly different. I can't wait for the next installment!

Discuss this article on the forums

The Duck Has Spoken.

Crappity crap crap crappity DAMMIT

Man, I was all pumped up to write a big article last night, and whaddya know, my 'net dies on me. This has been happening so often lately, I think it's about time I invested in a new modem...

And now, since I couldn't finish writing last night (I tried to write more in a Wordpad file, but my frustration sort of stymied the process), I have to write it now with freaking leaf blowers going off right outside my window. For the love of crap, aren't leaves supposed to rot? Just leave them be, dammit!

And if you really must mess with them, how about a little piece of technology called a rake? It's a really amazing invention, maybe I'll show ya how it works sometime!

...*Sigh*... Okay, enough ranting... I'll get to work on yesterday's article after I grab some breakfast...

The Duck Has Spoken.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Poll #36: "How many videogames do you own?" results, banner

"More than 200" 4 votes (14%)
"Between 150 and 200" 2 votes (7%)
"Between 100 and 149" 6 votes (21%)
"Between 50 and 99" 2 votes (7%)
"Between 0 and 49" 12 votes (42%)
"I'm not sure" 2 votes (7%)
"I don't have any videogames" 0 votes (0%)

I don't really have anything to say here, except that my collection now has 155 games in it. A review of the latest addition will be coming soon...

One could argue that this banner's a little late to the party, but dammit, Rabbids are timeless. Anyways, it's again a banner by your's truly (What happened to the reader submitted images?). I decided to mess around a bit with integrating the Rabbids into the text. I think it turned out pretty well, but I guess I'll leave the definitive judgment up to you guys.



As for this week's poll, the topic is "Which of the following Wii game ideas sounds best to you?". Personally, I'm still dreaming of a Luigi's Mansion 2...

New article will be up in a little while.

The Duck Has Spoken.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Mini-Article: Where's all the Mii support?

Tired tonight, thusly, a short article. Sorry 'bout that.



Back in 2006, Nintendo released the Wii, and with it came a multitude of features. One of the features most packed with potential would have to be the Mii Channel. With so many ways to shape your blank slate into a person, new and unique designs are always popping up left and right. You can even take your Miis into games such as Wii Sports and Wii Play and use them as your playable character.

But as I said in August, too few games take advantage of Miis as playable characters. Here we are, eight months later, and the number of titles using Miis in such a manner are still just about as scarce. Is there any excuse for this? Honestly, I think not.

First of all, Miis can be used by any developer when making a Wii game, regardless of whether they're first-, second- or third-party. This has been proven with Electronic Arts' FIFA 2008, which even included a famous soccer player made up in Mii style. So availability to the developer is not an issue.

Second, it's not as if the Miis wouldn't fit some of these art styles. Carnival Games had a fairly cartoony and whimsical look to it, but players still had to make their own characters from scratch when starting up a new file. The art was perfectly suitable to the Mii's animation style, so that isn't a problem in many cases either.

A Mii standing next to this guy would fit in just fine.


So really, most developers don't have much of an excuse for not using Miis. They're available to any Wii developer, they blend in with many of the simpler art styles, and (From my techno-tarded standpoint) they seem like they'd be fairly easy to implement in terms of coding. So unless it's a realistically-detailed game with graphics along the lines of Resident Evil 4, developers have little to no reason not to include Miis in their games.

What do you think of the absence of Miis in most games? Do you think it's justified, or do you think developers are just plain lazy sometimes? Have your say in the comment section, or in this forum thread.

The Duck Has Spoken.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

A DS redesign in 2008: Could it happen?



There's been a lot of talk lately regarding a new DS design being revealed soon. There are various signs pointing at both ends of the argument, and each camp has it's fair share of validity. I'm going to take a look at the arguments presented by both sides and figure out just how likely a redesign at this point would be.

Why it could happen

The DS Lite has been out for over two years. When it comes to Nintendo's redesigns, this is a fairly long time to go without any word. It's no secret that Nintendo likes re-releasing their consoles in smaller, brighter packages, and they usually do so in a fairly frequent manner, three models per era. For example, take a look back at the Game Boy Advance generation. The original model was released in 2001, followed by the Game Boy Advance SP in 2003, and the Game Boy Micro in 2005. See a pattern? This trend seems to be continuing, with the original DS being released in 2004, followed by the DS Lite in 2006. If Nintendo's past releases are any indication, we will see a new DS model in 2008.

All this redesign talk came out of nowhere. Didn't the same thing happen right before the DS Lite was revealed? And didn't Nintendo react with the same "no, it's not true" back then, too? Things have been sounding a little familiar lately.

Demand for the DS Lite in Japan is dropping fast. Weekly sales have dropped by about 20,000 since November, and things don't look to be turning around any time soon. If Nintendo wants to sustain a steady flow of sales in Japan, it only makes sense to get a new design out the door. And as we all know...

Nintendo starts developing the successor the second a console is finished. As of right now, the Wii's successor is in development, and the same goes for the DS Lite's redesign. This was never a secret, folks, and there's no reason why tradition would change.

Why it can't happen


Aside from Japan, the DS Lite is still selling like mad. The only real reason things are slowing down in the handheld's home country is because almost everyone in Japan has one by now! But in North America, Europe and Australia, there are so many more people who want a DS Lite but don't have one yet. While redesigning the console now would make sense for helping sales in Japan, it isn't the right time yet elsewhere in the world.

Too many models will confuse the casual consumer. When a casual gamer sees a DS Lite on a store shelf, they instantly identify it as the console they've seen in commercials and such. But if they saw the DS Lite and some new-fangled design sitting next to it, they'd likely become confused. And the casual gamers that already have a DS Lite could be confused by the new model, wondering if their console is now obsolete. Unless Nintendo put out some ad campaign explicitly stating that they're both the same system, I don't think the casuals would react to it all that well.

The GBA redesigns came quickly and uniformly, but the original generation was quite different. The original Game Boy came out in 1989, and the first redesign (Not counting the "Play it Loud!" coloured systems) wasn't available until 1996, in the form of the Game Boy Pocket. The Game Boy Light (Japan Only) was released the next year, and the Game Boy Color debuted the year after that. The redesigns in the original generation were quite sporadic, and just because the Advance series was predictable doesn't mean the DS will be the same. And who knows? Perhaps there just won't be another redesign this generation! The number of rereleases has dropped progressively each generation. The original Game Boy series had four models, the Advance had three, and perhaps the DS will have only two. You never really know. History isn't always the best indicator.

Looking at the various arguments flying around, I'd have to say that no, we won't be seeing a new design this year. But really, Nintendo was never known for being predictable. Speculation and probability mean nothing to Iwata! Nothing!

So then, what do you think of all this recent redesign jibber-jabber? Have your say in the comment section, or in this forum thread.

The Duck Has Spoken.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Do some developers care only about money?



I sometimes wonder if developers really care about the games they release. There are some companies who really do make sure they release only quality products, but some just don't seem to give a damn. For example, let's look at one of the most well-known offenders...



Yes, I'm looking at you, Data Design. Let's look at the reviews from some of your latest "games"... Okay, we have a 3.5/10 from IGN for Myth Makers Super Kart GP, a 2.4/10 from n-Revolution for Billy the Wizard: Rocket Broomstick Racing, and oh dear... A 0.5 review from n-Revolution for Ninjabread Man... My, Data Design, don't you have plenty to be proud of!



The Wii versions of all these games cost an average of $20 in the bargain bin at your local Wal-Mart, a price which is likely similar to the game's development costs. After all, these are merely ports of poorly-received PS2 games released back in 2005. All they did was give it a new box art and some crappy motion controls. Whoopee, us gamers sure are lucky.

They couldn't have possibly released these games thinking that they're good. No person with a properly-functioning brain could ever think that. All they wanted was the cash, and they didn't give half a crap how badly flawed their product was. Seriously, if we aren't careful, it'll be the videogame crash of 1983 all over again.

It seems that only in the videogame world can you get away with things like this. It would never work with movies, as consumers tend to be more wary of crappy-looking movies than they are cautious of obviously terrible games. And besides, I've never seen a movie released that looks comparatively bad to Ninjabread Man. Crappy films don't even get that far. Theatres will never display a badly-made movie instead of a new high-budget film. And when it comes to DVD sales, a crappy movie would just sink to the bottom of the bargain bin, never to be seen again.

But with games, it seems to be a lot easier to get them published. Just look at any EBGames selection, and you'll see "gems" like Chicken Shoot and Elf Bowling sitting there next to actual video games. These games could have been whipped up by a Flash artist in about a day and released for free online. Actually, in the case of Elf Bowling, that's exactly what happened! It's nothing but a conversion of a popular Flash game. Have you ever seen a Youtube video remade and released on DVD? I sure haven't. The game world just works so much differently.

Developers whip up some crap, get a publisher to put it on the shelves and that's that. Sure, they won't sell as many copies as Super Mario Galaxy, but their lower development costs would be quickly overcome by their meager profits. Basically, they spend less, sell for less, end up selling enough to cover development, and make a bundle in the process. Cash in the pocket.

I don't think a director would print a movie he knew was crappy. I doubt an author would publish their book if they knew it was tripe. And whether a TV producer thinks their bad show is good or not, it wouldn't matter, as the broadcaster would never show it. Truly the game industry is the way to go if you want to put in as little effort for the best payout. Sadly for us, Data Design caught on to this, and here we are with Ninjabread Man, Monster Trux Extreme and Action Girlz Racing clogging our video game store shelves.

If you're ever browsing in the electronics section and see someone buying one of these titles, for the love of god, stop them. They'll save $20 and their sanity, you'll feel good for doing a good deed, and Data Design will have a little less cash in their coffers. It's all for a good cause.

And it's not just Data Design that's in on this. Oh no, there's more. Phoenix Games is also aiming to bring us "true gaming pleasure" with their nearly copyright-infringing titles such as Dalmatians 4, Iron Chef 2 and Lion and the King 3. Oh man, it's E.T for the Atari 2600 all over again!

Beware the false Disney game!


Have your say on this article in the comments section, or in this forum thread.

The Duck Has Spoken.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Poll #35: "Do you have any foreign consoles, games or peripherals?" results. banner

"Yes, tonnes of them!" 1 (3%)
"Yes, a few here and there" 9 (29%)
"Yeah, but only one." 1 (3%)
"I used to" 2 (6%)
"No, but I'd like to have some" 9 (29%)
"No" 9 (29%)

Not sure what to say here, although I did expect a few more votes for "Yes, tonnes of them!". And man, I really need to get that new white Gamecube controller that's coming out in Japan soon...

This week's banner was made to celebrate Mario Kart Wii's recent release in the European market. From what I've read, it sounds pretty promising, although it's not without it's problems. I guess I'll just have to wait to render my opinion.



For this week's poll, the question is as follows: "How many videogames do you own?". A simple question, really. Of course, if you're not sure, there's an option to say so, but you can always just make a rough estimate, too. Personally, my collection's sitting at a respectable 154 separate games. Not too shabby!

Tonight's article will be up in a little bit.

The Duck Has Spoken.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Bits and pieces: Random game ideas volume 3

Huh, this is the 250th post... How about that. Also, short article tonight- er, this morning. Sorry 'bout that.

And if you want to check out the previous editions of "Random game ideas", here ya go.


Every now and then I get an idea for a game that just isn't complex enough to warrant an entire post. I keep these ideas in storage, so to speak, until I flesh them out enough. Here's on idea I feel is ready to be posted.

A sandbox-style LEGO game

I love creating things, I love video games, and I love LEGO bricks. What better way to combine them than a 3D LEGO game? The player is given an infinite amount of bricks to work with, and they can just build to their heart's content. That's really all there is to it.

This would work great on the Wii, of course. Here's how I picture the controls working:

Wii Remote

Pointer: Move block around
A button: Place block
Press and hold B button: Pick up already placed brick
Release B button: Place brick
D-Pad (Any direction): Delete held brick

Nunchuk

Analog stick: Move around the "map"
Z trigger + Analog stick up: Push brick further from player
Z trigger + Analog stick down: Pull brick closer to player
C button: Enable "fly mode"

The controls really would be that simple. As for the "fly mode" I mentioned, that would allow the player to move around the map freely in all directions, including moving up into the air and flying through already placed bricks. This would enable the player to look at their creation from every conceivable angle, as well as help them escape if they accidentally build themselves into a corner.

There would also be several preset models for beginners to work with and become accustomed to. They could freely add on to and take away from these models, giving them a great starting point.

Now, I'm aware of programs available online such as Blockland and LEGO Digital Designer. But there are quite a few problems with each of them. First of all, Blockland has only very simple bricks available due to it not actually being licensed LEGO software. It also has somewhat of an adventure feel to it instead of being a pure free-building program. As for LEGO Digital Designer, there are several camera problems, such as it not letting you freeze the camera at particular angles. It also has a very basic player interaction mode, as it is intended to be a program for LEGO users to build a set and send for the pieces within it. They wouldn't want this program to offer too much interactivity, or else players may find the virtual version is good enough, and decide to not purchase the pieces to build it for real.

Which I suppose is a bit of a problem when it comes to the LEGO game idea I've written up. The LEGO company probably wouldn't want to license a virtual LEGO building product, as it may detract from sales of their actual LEGO sets. Sure, to me there's nothing like actually building a model and holding it in my hands, but some people may be happy with a 3D, computer-generated model.

On the other hand, people not happy with a 3D model could decide that LEGO products are right for them and proceed to collect them. I guess it does kind of depends on who you're talking about.

Regardless of the probability, I'd still really like for this software to become a reality. It'd be really cool to build a 3D LEGO model and walk around in it as if you were one of the LEGO people. Opening doors, climbing stairwells, exploring hallways, all built by your own hand... There is a certain aspect to it unavailable in the real world. I suppose I shall only be able to dream for now...



So, what do you think of this? Would you buy a sandbox-style LEGO game? Do you prefer to build with real LEGO bricks? Do you have any suggestions on how to improve on my idea for a LEGO simulator? Do you really not give half a rat's ass about LEGO products whatsoever? Well, have your say in the comment section, or in this forum thread.

The Duck Has Spoken.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Tomorrow's Nintendo press conference: Predictions, hopes and doubts

I've been waiting to use this image again for a loooong time.



It's not uncommon for Nintendo fans to go months without information on games from their favourite developer. So when we hear the words "press conference", we usually go all sorts of insane. My first reaction to this sort of thing is to start thinking up what might happen at the event, and this press conference is no different. At the same time, my imagination goes wild with extremely unlikely hopes for announcements. I also consider some downright almost-certainly-not-going-to-happen announcements and reveals. So what will most likely happen? What do I dearly wish will happen? And what is most likely not going to occur at all? My predictions, hopes and doubts follow.

Predictions

These are the things I'm almost sure will happen. I doubt all of them will show up at this conference, but I have a good feeling at least one of them will.

Assets for Animal Crossing Wii will be shown

This game has been in a bizarre state of confirmation for quite some time. Nintendo is making it, and they're well aware that we know this. On several occasions, they pretty much outright confirmed it's existance. But still, there's no screenshots, video, official announcements or anything. Come tomorrow, though, I think this will change.

I'm willing to bet that we'll see at least some concept art or screenshots. Perhaps a trailer, and maybe some separate in-game footage. But I'm nearly certain we'll see at least something. And when it happens, I'll be sure to squeal with fanboyish delight.

Some news on Disaster: Day of Crisis

Of all the currently-announced Nintendo projects, Disaster: Day of Crisis is probably the one I'm most looking forward to. Even though we've seen little more than a five-second trailer and a few screenshots, I'm just so incredibly hyped for this title. And don't ask why, but I have this incredibly strong feeling that we'll be seeing some more on this game. Whether it's a new trailer, some screenshots or a name change, I'm almost positive this game will make some sort of an appearance.

The third fourth-generation Pokémon will be revealed

It's been almost a year since Pokémon Diamond and Pearl debuted in North America. I think it's about time we see the third game of the generation announced, don't you? After all, every conventional Pokémon generation (Not counting Firered and Leafgreen, which are remakes) has had three games: Two games released at the same time, with a third released later on. The third game always has some sort of special aspect to it, such as a tweaked storyline or additional areas.

It's been so long since Diamond and Pearl came out, and I've been thinking we'll see the third game soon for quite some time. To me, tomorrow seems like the perfect time and place.

Wii Channel news

This is an incredibly vague prediction, so it really can mean pretty much anything. Whether the news is a new channel, an upcoming update to an existing channel or the long-awaited release date Everybody's Nintendo Channel. I'm really hoping it's the latter, because we've really been waiting for ages and ages to get some info.

Hopes

These are all things I hope very much will happen, but seem improbable for one reason or another. Whether or not any of the following happens is beyond me, but I'd sure be happy if some of it did!

An F-Zero, Star Fox or Pikmin sequel to be announced

Come on, how awesome would this be? A new F-Zero on the Wii, with online play and Excite Truck-style steering! Or a new Star Fox game exactly like the one I yakked about back in June! And what about that new Pikmin everyone keeps begging for, with Shigeru Miyamoto-approved motion controls!

However, this remains merely a hope because of how relatively low-profile this press conference is going to be. It's not like E3 or the Tokyo Game Show, so we really shouldn't expect anything too huge. But still...

A solution to the Wii's puny 512 MB memory

Nobody can deny this: The Wii's default memory capacity sucks. SD Cards stream too slowly to be viable solutions, and the Wii-fridgerator idea is way too clunky and time-consuming. We need a hard drive, and we need it yesterday. With all these Virtual Console downloads, gamesaves and the impending WiiWare launch, space on our Wii's memory is going to become even more scarce. I really hope Nintendo's working out a solution to this.

But, no matter how hard I hope, it just doesn't seem like something Nintendo would do. Hard drives are expensive, and they just don't fit with the sort of approach Nintendo is taking. So as much as I'd like for it to happen, I doubt we'll see this tomorrow, if at all.

Doubts

These are announcements that I neither expect or really anticipate all that much. If they don't happen, meh, okay. If they do, ok, cool. I really don't care much either way. Not that it matters, since these are almost surely not going to happen.

New Wii colours

While it would be kind of cool to see a red or black Wii, I really don't see it happening. First of all, the Wii is already selling like mad. Sales don't need a kick in the butt just yet. Second, Nintendo's already having trouble keeping up with demand. New colours would just divide their resources even more. I don't think we'll be seeing new Wii colours for quite some time yet.

A new DS remodel

Whatever they do to make the next DS remodel different, it probably won't be happening for a while. To start, DS Lite's are still selling fairly well in almost every one of the world's markets. Also, what exactly could they change about the DS Lite to warrant another model? It's already incredibly small, it has a great battery life, and the screens are crystal clear. Any possible improvements are incredibly minor. I think we'll be seeing an entirely new generation of handhelds first, and that's far too big for a relatively minor event such as this.

So then, my predictions have been made, my hopes are stated, and my doubts are placed. Time to sit back and watch how things go down.

How's My Blogging? Call 1-800-Comment or visit AppropriateForumThread.com to discuss the article and post your thoughts.

The Duck Has Spoken.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Behold! More Animal Crossing Wii ideas

It's that time again...



So, another month has passed, and still no word on Animal Crossing Wii. Time for more ideas!

Custom Music

K.K Slider's music is great and all, but what if we could play our own custom music in Animal Crossing Wii? All we'd have to do is load our favourite tunes onto an SD card, pop it in the Wii, and bam! Instant personalized music. All the player would have to do is go to a musical item in their house and choose the "Custom Music" option from a menu. Then they could cycle through their MP3s in the same fashion to choosing a K.K Slider song.

Oh, what I wouldn't give for a little Weird Al Yankovic or Yakety Sax in my Animal Crossing... And perhaps a bit of Portal goodness in the form of Still Alive? Sounds good to me!

Clubs

If there's one annoying thing I remember about the original Animal Crossing, it's that villagers would occasionally blather on about some amazing new soccer/ballet/swimming/etc. club they just formed, and they'd ask you to join. Of course, it doesn't really matter what you say, because the club doesn't even exist.

But what if it did? These clubs could be created by villagers or players, with themes ranging from treasure hunting to gardening. Every week on a specific day (Say, Saturday, for example), you and your fellow club members would meet, discuss what you're going to do, and head off. The treasure hunting club would revolve around looking for Gyroids, fossils, seashells and whatnot, bringing them back and adding them to a central club collection with everyone else's finds. The gardening club would entail the leader handing out flower seeds and saplings to the members to go around and plant wherever they please, beautifying the village. You could even have flower-watering competitions, with club members fighting to water more flowers than anyone else.

Do you think this is an awesome idea? Join the club, we have imaginary T-shirts.

Tree Houses

Look at all those trees scattered across your village. Other than fruit, furniture and the occasional beehive, those trees really don't do all that much. But what if you could put a tree house in one of them? Like your home away from home, your more elevated house could be placed in any tree anywhere in your village. Players could take some nice old furniture and put it up in their new real estate, giving them a new place to call their own.

To make things fair, the tree on which the tree house is built would be immune to axes. It just wouldn't be fair if some jerk thought it fun to chop down your second home, would it?

Each player would get to have one tree house in their town, and only the player who owns the house would be able to place or remove objects within it. So really, it's like you have an additional room to cram all your stuff. But I don't think it's really intended to be used as storage...

Pattern restrictions

Don't you hate it when someone comes along over Wi-Fi and tears up your meticulously-placed sidewalk? Well, worry no more, because in my vision of Animal Crossing Wii, only the player who placed the pattern can remove it. Also, to avoid the obligatory pornographic patterns you're sure to come across, visitors would be forbidden to place patterns in a foreign town.

A point-and-click control scheme

If you've played Animal Crossing: Wild World, you probably know about the touch screen controls available to be used. Animal Crossing Wii would also take advantage of its home console's unique controls, adding a point-and-click navigation option. In addition to moving around with the analog stick, players would have the choice of simply pointing where they want to go and pressing A.

If a player is playing with the Nunchuk and Wii remote configuration, they could use a combination of the two control schemes, switching between pointer and analog control on the fly. If the player only has a Wii remote on hand, it goes without saying that the point-and-click control scheme would be the only available option. And could some Gamecube and Classic controlling work it's way in? Hey, I wouldn't be opposed. The more options, the merrier!

So, yet again, another month as passed with no word on Animal Crossing Wii, so I have written up some more ideas. I sure hope I don't have to go another month without information! Perhaps Thursday's press conference will shed some light on this elusive title...

Alright! Feel free to talk about the article (Or post your own ideas) in the comment section or this forum thread.

The Duck Has Spoken.

Poll #34: "Have you ever had a Nintendo console break after less than five years?" results, banner

"Yes, more than once" 2 (8%)
"Yes, but only once" 5 (20%)
"Nope, I guess I'm just lucky" 16 (66%)
"I'm not sure" 1 (4%)

I'm glad to see that most people haven't had much trouble with their Nintendo consoles. I suppose I'm just one of the unlucky few... Well, at least it still works.

This week's banner is a salute to Nintendo's leading ladies. I don't think there are enough positive female role-models in today's society, but I'm glad to see that there are at least a few solid characters of the fairer sex. Peach can kick some ass in sports, Samus is deadly with a gun, and Zelda's magic is a force to be reckoned with. Even better, they're not overly sexed-up or under-dressed, which is something I'm very happy to see in today's world of skimpy clothing.



As for this week's banner, the subject is "Do you have any foreign consoles, games or peripherals?". Personally, I have a Japanese Wii remote, and that's it. But I know there are a lot of people out there with quite the collection of imports, and I thought this would be an interesting way for us to discuss our foreign collectibles. If you wish to say just what foreign consoles, games or peripherals you have, feel free to sound off in the comment section, or maybe make up an appropriate thread on the forums. I'm interested to hear what sorts of imported things some people have in their collections!

Tonight's article will be up shortly!

The Duck Has Spoken.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Whatever happened to...? Volume 2

Now this is a long-overdue revival. I haven't even touched this subject since August!

It's not uncommon for a game to get announced followed by a huge gap without any information. It happens all the time, in fact. But usually that radio silence is broken with a flood of new information. Not always, though. Some games go on for months and months with little to no information. Here are the two current offenders I'm most interested in hearing more about.



Shockwaves were sent across the gaming world when word got out that Dragon Quest IX was headed to the DS. Everyone was expecting a Wii or PS3 release! After people talked about this in disbelief for a while, they began to notice how little we know about the game. Announced in December 2006, all we've gotten so far is a bit of footage and some screens.

Some good news came in early February 2008 when Square-Enix announced that the game is "almost complete". Good news, right? Well, it was also said at the same time that they're not going to rush it out the door, so who knows how soon we'll actually get to play it? Also, hearing of progress is nice and all, but I like to see proof as well. I can't even remember the last time a new screenshot or trailer was released

I'm not doubting that this game is still coming. After all, it's a Dragon Quest game! I don't think Square-Enix would dare to cancel a new entry in one of Japan's favourite franchises.



Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers has been in a state of radio silence almost as long as it's insane title. The last update was almost a year ago, and even that was an incredibly short teaser trailer. There's even less information on this game than there is on Dragon Quest IX, even though this game was announced a full seven months earlier!

Again, I highly doubt this has been canceled for the exact same reasons. Excluding the NES port of Final Fantasy III, I don't think a Final Fantasy game has ever been axed during development, so we have little reason to worry. I just wonder if the final product will look anything like what we've seen so far... A few months can have a huge impact on what a game will actually end up looking like.

I'm not saying you should rush, Square-Enix, but could we at least see this hit before the end of time? That is, if you think you can finish it by then.

And what of those games from the last edition of "Whatever happened to...?"? Here's the quick low-down:

DS Air: Still no word on a North American release. I think it's a safe bet that we'll never see this game outside of Japan. A pity, because it really looked quite fun.

Disaster: Day of Crisis: I don't think we've seen even one screenshot of this game since the last "Whatever happened to...?". Nintendo has said it's still in development, though, so we can still hope...

Wii Music: Again, very little has happened with Wii Music since I last wrote about it. I think a few screenshots were released about four months ago, but I'm not sure. It's apparently still on track for this year, so I guess we'll just have to wait and see.

It really sucks to see so many games seemingly fall into the background with nary a word. I'm sure most of these titles will eventually get their time to shine, though, so not all is lost. Feel free to talk about this article in the comments section, or in this forum thread.

The Duck Has Spoken.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Mini-Article: World War II games: Enough already!



The first World War II game I played was Battlefield 1942 on the PC. Good game, great level design, amazing online play. Everything about it was brilliant. A little while back, I picked up Brothers in Arms DS. Again, it was a pretty good game. It kept me busy for a little while. Did pretty well considering how cheap I got it for.

But by the time I picked up Medal of Honor: Heroes 2, I got an immense feeling of deja vu. I'd played almost the exact same level years before, but with less amazing graphics. I've seen Normandy before, I've fought the Germans several times, I've killed many a Swastika-wearing enemy. And I've barely even scratched the surface of war games with my experiences.

The same thing can only be entertaining so many times. I feel as if that each WW II game I play is just a remake of the last. The levels can't be very different, because they're based on fact. The weapons must be the same to match the time period. Unless the game branches out into the fantastical, the only real variables are the AI, graphics, sound and control schemes.

I'm glad to see that some game franchises are beginning to grow out of this phase. Call of Duty 4 saw a shift to modern day combat, and the upcoming Battlefield Heroes takes place in a fictional representation of today's warfare technology. But still, many games continue to follow the events of World War II. What will it take to stop this monotony? Can't we have a game based on World War I, with bayonets and stuff? I seriously think that'd be kinda cool.

Or maybe there could be a super-futuristic war game, pitting Earth against invading aliens. But unlike games such as Halo and Half-Life (Nothing against them, by the way), the player would be just another average human fighting to save and protect his planet. If the player has an ability, advantage or disadvantage, then every ally should, too. No giving the player super-awesome suits of high-tech armour or incredibly amounts of health. Each soldier would be equal, playable or not.

As for the aliens, they'd be all the same as well. No giant sword-wielding varieties, no tiny little grunts, just all the same species fighting to take over or destroy your planet. Every alien would have the same amount of health, basically the same armour (Minor differences depending on rank, of course), and the same weapons. Why can't developers take a risk and at least try something like this? I'd prefer it over any new World War II shooter. Call me crazy, but I like new games to be new.

Talk about this article in the comment section, or in this forum thread.

The Duck Has Spoken.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

EXCLUSIVE: Cloud Strife to join the Brawl via DLC!



That's right, you heard it here first! I got exclusive word from Square-Enix that Cloud Strife will be making a long-awaited appearance in Nintendo's blockbuster hit, Super Smash Bros. Brawl! I am incredibly privileged to have been made privy to this top-secret information, and it is my honour to reveal this to you all.

As of now, no art or screenshots of Cloud in Super Smash Bros. Brawl exist, as this is still at the very early stages of production. The above image was sloppily made up by me in a hurry as I quivered with excitement. Not only is the one and only Cloud Strife confirmed to be appearing in Brawl, but Square-Enix chose me to announce it to the world! I still can't believe this. It's too good to be true!

Included in this e-mail from Square-Enix (They requested I keep the contact's name confidential) is a planned moveset for Cloud. It goes as follows:

Standard Attack: Slash
Running Standard Attack: Charge
Down Standard Attack: Drill Slash
Up Standard Attack: Thrust
Special Attack: Firaga
Side Special: Thundaga
Down Special: Blizzaga
Up Special: Aero
Smash Attack: Double Cut
Final Smash: Meteor

Those are all the details I was given. I still can't believe this is really happening! But don't get too excited yet, folks. This is still far from hitting the Shop Channel. My contact told me that the earliest possible release would be this time next year. The company already has it's fair share of projects in development as of now, and they seem to be considering Cloud Strife to be somewhat low priority. One quote from the e-mail (I've been told partial replication is okay) is as follows:

We're very excited to be bringing our legendary Cloud Strife to the world of Super Smash Bros. Brawl. But not as excited as we are about Final Fantasy XIII, Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers, The World Ends With You and Final Fantasy VII: The Quest for More Money. As of now we have at least one man working on Cloud at every moment, unless we decide the programmer is more needed elsewhere, in which case development of Cloud Strife screeches to a halt.

We're not worried about getting striking while the iron's still hot. We prefer to bludgeon the iron once it's cooled, squeezing every last valuable asset out of it. That's a saying we have around here. It's the Square-Enix way.

So when we do finally finish developing Cloud Strife for use in Super Smash Bros. Brawl, we'll be sure to make him as affordable as possible to the casual consumer. We're thinking a base cost of 2000 Wii Points, with an extra charge to make him compatible with the other control schemes. Oh, did I forget to mention? The basic Cloud Strife download will only function when the player is using the sideways Wii remote controller configuration. Also, he will be incredibly weak before players download the "Level Up" package from the Wii Shop Channel, at a mere charge of 1500 Wii Points.

This may sound a little overpriced, but rest assured that this will be well worth the buyer's money. After all, this is a Square-Enix product. You just know it's gotta be good! So start saving your pennies now, consumer.


I can't wait!

Talk about this absolutely amazing development in the comment section, or in this forum thread.

The Duck Has Spoken.